“Writing is a form of mischief” – Stephen Sondheim.
For some writers, there is nothing more confronting than a blank page.
How to start… What to say… Who to write for…
However, when you have a writing buddy, a pressure shared is a pressure halved. In the creation of XYZ, a new cabaret work presented by Western Arts Theatre, Frankie Guida and Alexandra Karaoutsadis teamed up to pen a song cycle show about the formative experiences of life.
Karaoutsadis and Guida met while rehearsing Rent in 2015 – and we were both singing Heathers and we just knew from there that this friendship was different to others. From there we grew closer, and found we both wanted to write about common themes”, reflects Guida. Their friendship was “Built on a mutual foundation of respect for creativity, we decided to try our hand at writing a show”, adds Karaoutsadis.
From there, the seeds of what became XYZ were sown. “We wanted to address real issues that people face”, says Guida, “no matter if they are positive or negative ones, and create a narrative that people could easily follow and connect with”. The desire to keep things real within the script led the writing duo to choose cabaret as their platform. “With cabaret not many rules apply, and there is so much fun within that”, continues Guida. “The idea that you can create a whole show that doesn’t necessarily have to have a plot line is amazing, and the other magical part of cabaret is that people who don’t love musicals will always enjoy a cabaret because the music itself is not always musical theatre. And that is so prevalent within XYZ.”
With a perfect combination of heart and soul, XYZ shows two scenes that play as one, mirroring each other and showing how something that happened to us as children or teenagers can help us grow as adults. XYZ is a show that is all about life and how you learn from your experiences.
The subject matter of XYZ begged one particular question to be put to its writers – just how autobiographical is the work? “It’s only a tiny bit autobiographical, as the cast have really made this show what it is”, offers Karaoutsadis. We wrote parts that everyone can relate to, but Alex and I really encouraged the cast to make this their own, and for me that is more important”. Guida continues – “Whilst the show contains a lot of paths that I will never go down, there are some special moments influenced by our own lives”.
One and a half years in the making, there were “countless phone calls, debates and brainstorming sessions”, says Guida. “I know there were countless songs, and their alternatives, that didn’t make the cut”. During the writing process, Karaoutsadis and Guida teamed up with musical director Kelly Trenery, whereupon the whole process became even more collaborative. “[She] gave advice on or songs she thought would work, or ones that we chose that she would advise against. […] There were also so many scenarios we had that have changed or are completely non-existent, and that’s the fun”, adds Guida.
Among others, XYZ uses the music of Ed Sheeran and Demi Lavato, as well as musical numbers from ‘Waitress’ and ‘School of Rock’. With such an eclectic blend of music, this new cabaret will appeal to most anyone. For Guida, the message of the song cycle is a strong one: “Life is short, embrace it for all its worth. Take each moment as it comes. I hope they walk out with an idea that everyone has a story and we need to respect that”.
XYZ will be performing at Kindred Studios, 3 Harris Street, Yarraville, from Thursday May 4th until Saturday May 6th at 8pm, with a matinee performance also on Saturday the 6th at 2pm. Tickets are available from trybooking.com/PKUP
*The show contains some scenes that depict death, war and bullying. Discretion is advised.